The Message that Brett Kavanaugh is Sending to Our Children
Yet more allegations of sexual misconduct have come to light about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and people on both sides of the aisle are going wild. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has claimed he tried to rape her at a high school party 30+ years ago. Rebecca Martinez accuses judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct at a drunken college party. And Julie Swetnick has released a sworn declaration alleging Kavanaugh and friends plied girls with spiked alcohol back in high school in order to sexually assault them.
The potential ramifications of having a serial abuser of women in a lifetime Supreme Court seat makes it all the more critical that these claims be investigated by the FBI. But here’s an equally important reason: our children are watching.
Back in the olden days, when news came in on your television and the daily newspaper, Supreme Court nominations were tracked by an elite few who worked in politics or cared enough about the issues to pay attention. Today, as our presidency plays out on twitter and senators and social activists alike use social media to rally their base, committee hearings once watched by a few adults are now broadcast to the masses, especially young people. How many of your children saw Trump’s infamous pussy video online? How many follow young gun activists like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg since the Parkland shooting?
Likewise, young people are watching the public discourse around Brett Kavanaugh; how seriously we take these accusations and how respectfully we treat his accusers. Children look to the adults in the world for cues on how to respond. So, if the allegations against Kavanaugh are not thoroughly, thoughtfully investigated, what will our children hear?
Our daughters will hear that if they are abused or assaulted, they should never report. They’ll know that if they do report, the first response to their accusations will be skepticism and disbelief. When it comes down to ‘he said/she said’ (as it so often does) they will know that the word of their assailant is more valuable than the search for the truth. Girls who have already been assaulted will hear that what happened to them didn’t matter, that no one will protect them, and that the very systems we ostensibly have in place in this country to protect women from sexual assault will not even be invoked.
Our sons will hear something even more dire: you are not accountable to treat women with respect; we, as a society, are not accountable to treat women with respect. Since the majority of boys (and men) do not assault women, this is an even more damaging message. There is nothing you can do to protect the women you love. Worse still, the small margin of boys who do engage in sexual misconduct will be emboldened to continue with impunity.
As I write this, I can hear the litany of excuses to avoid a formal investigation of these accusations. It was such a long time ago. These women were drunk, perhaps their memories were impaired. Yes, it was a long time ago and alcohol certainly does impact memory. This is exactly why we need a neutral, third-party investigation: to use the most qualified, adequately staffed investigatory agency to interview every person in and around these events and determine exactly what happened.
Let’s be clear: despite the enormous social and cultural shifts created by the #MeToo movement, the vast majority of men have never done anything wrong. Most men have never pursued a woman who has indicated her disinterest. Most men have never touched a woman who has not wanted to be touched. Most boys have never held a woman down and tried to take off her clothes as she struggled and screamed for help. There is no downside to an FBI investigation of these claims. The only harm is in telling our children that it’s not important enough to do.
During this extraordinary moment in history when social and cultural mores are shifting so rapidly, we have the opportunity to show our children that our democracy is not broken, that the rule of law protects everyone equally, and that their voices matter. This time your children are watching. Be careful what you tell them.
Anne Moses is the Founder and President of IGNITE, the largest nonpartisan organization in the United States that provides sustained, community-based training and support to young girls and women to step into political leadership. IGNITE works with girls in high school and young women to strengthen their political agency and to help build their political power.